Versus the competiton:
Although the 2016 Mitsubishi Outlander is newly redesigned, it still feels behind the times. Still, it should attract buyers with its low price even though it doesn’t embrace the latest in technology and ergonomics.
Not to be confused with the smaller Outlander Sport, the Outlander is a midsize SUV that seats up to seven in three rows. It can be had with either a 166-horsepower, 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine and continuously variable automatic transmission or a 224-hp, 3.0-liter V-6 and six-speed automatic. The four-cylinder offers front- or all-wheel drive, while the V-6 comes only with all-wheel drive. We tested a 2016 Mitsubishi Outlander 3.0 GT S-AWC with the V-6 engine.
Changes for 2016 include new styling, suspension, power steering and sound insulation. For a rundown of other differences between the 2015 and 2016 models, click here.
The Outlander has a new chrome-heavy front design. There’s a chrome grille and vertical chrome accents bordering a piano-black bumper treatment. New rear styling includes LED taillights that extend into the liftgate, plus a restyled bumper. Heated side mirrors and 18-inch alloy wheels are standard.
While Mitsubishi freshened up the Outlander’s design, it doesn’t break any ground. It still looks like an SUV, not a wagon pretending to be an SUV, but I had a hard time finding it when it was parked in a row of similar vehicles. Something about the changes to the front end makes it blend in even more, despite all the chrome.
Our V-6 Outlander provided acceptable, if unremarkable, acceleration. While it never felt underpowered, there was a slight lag in acceleration from a standstill that, sadly, is common in this vehicle class. At highway speeds, the six-speed automatic transmission provided better response than others in the class because it didn’t have to kick down two or three gears, as do many eight- and nine-speed transmissions. That typically causes more hesitation. Also, it should be noted that four-cylinder Outlander models employ a CVT that will provide a different response. We haven’t tested that version.
While not class-leading or exceptional, steering and braking are certainly not bad. There’s enough boost from the updated power steering to be able to easily cruise a parking lot at slow speeds, but assist is dialed back a bit at highway speeds so the Outlander doesn’t feel twitchy. The brakes don’t offer the firmest pedal I’ve ever used, but they’re easy to modulate and bring the Outlander to a stop.
The Outlander’s ride is mixed. It doesn’t do a good job isolating bigger bumps – there’s a lot of banging and crashing when you hit one — and a lot of road noise comes into the cabin. After testing the Outlander then driving a new-for-2016 subcompact SUV, it became apparent just how loud the Outlander’s cabin was. Others in the class, notably the Ford Edge, do a much better job of insulating you from the harsh bumps and loud noises of the outside world.
On the other hand, the Outlander felt composed and predictable when pushed in turns. It didn’t wallow or feel too rigid. And while it didn’t isolate me from bigger bumps, the rest of the time the ride was pretty smooth, if loud.
Two-wheel-drive versions with the four-cylinder get an EPA-estimated 25/31/27 mpg city/highway/combined; all-wheel drive gets 24/29/26 mpg. The V-6 version we tested gets 20/27/23 mpg and requires premium gas.
The two-wheel-drive, four-cylinder Outlander bests competitors – the 2015 Ford Edge, 2016 Kia Sorento and 2015 Toyota Highlander — when you look at its combined mileage. At 27 mpg combined, it beats the Edge’s 24 mpg, the Sorento’s 23 or 24 mpg (depending on which four-cylinder engine you choose) and the Highlander’s 22 mpg. Stepping up to the V-6 with all-wheel drive, like we tested, the Outlander also beats the all-wheel-drive, V-6 powered Edge, Sorento and Highlander with its combined 23 mpg, compared to 20 mpg (Edge), 19 mpg (Sorento) and 20 mpg (Highlander).
The interior is an area where automakers, when they redesign a car, often make significant changes, but Mitsubishi didn’t seem to in the Outlander. This is both good and bad. On the good side, there are a lot of “old-fashioned” buttons for the controls, which is a welcome alternative to models in which everything is controlled by a central touch-screen.
On the bad side, the Outlander just doesn’t look like a new SUV. In a market where competitors have been redesigned recently – the Edge was redesigned for the 2015 model year, the Sorento for 2016 and the Highlander for 2014 – looking like an older generation might not be good enough in the eyes of shoppers.
Another thing that’s just not good enough are the Outlander’s quality issues. Our test model’s driver’s seat rocked backward every time I accelerated from a standstill, as if the seat wasn’t attached properly. That’s unacceptable. Less damning is that the available seat leather isn’t very rich feeling; I’ve felt imitation leather surfaces that felt richer. There’s also not a lot of padding and a few hard surfaces in the Outlander. If a plush interior is your thing, check out the Outlander’s competitors.
When it comes to space, the Outlander offers good room up front. Unlike in a lot of current SUVs, the center console between the seats is slim and sits low in the cabin, so I never felt like I was being pinched or penned in, as I do when I drive others in this class. That’s one benefit of a redesign that doesn’t keep up with the latest trends.
Also, second-row room was very good. My legs had plenty of room without having my knees lifted too high in the air, and my head had plenty of space, too. Our test model, though, didn’t have any of the USB ports or HDMI cable inserts that are starting to become prevalent in the market.
The third-row seat isn’t really viable for adult use. It was entirely too small for me to sit back there – granted, I’m 6-feet, 2-inches tall – but I think even shorter adults would find it a struggle. Also, the third-row seat manages to feel both flimsy and too stiff, with a hard seating surface.
But this is a midsize SUV, and the Edge doesn’t even offer a third row of seats. The Sorento has seven seats, but not standard. So thinking of a third row as an emergencies-only feature for a vehicle in this class isn’t unreasonable. I certainly wouldn’t ding the Outlander for having a third-row seat that I don’t like when others don’t offer one at all.
Finally, visibility is good, with mirrors that offer a good view of the road around you. Visibility is also helped by the Outlander’s thin windshield pillars, which stand fairly vertically. That helps limit blind spots.
Mitsubishi deserves some praise for keeping buttons in the cabin to control not only the climate controls, but also functions such as switching between the radio, media and navigation menus. After a quick drive or two, it was easy for me to remember which button controlled what function, and I found myself not having to take my eyes off the road to make the changes I wanted. This is superior to the more “modern” designs that use touch-screens, notably the MyFordTouch system.
In addition, Mitsubishi’s system was one of the easier ones for me to pair my phone with. (Of course, as other reviewers pointed out, the cabin is so loud that actually using the phone isn’t as easy.)
An odd thing I haven’t noticed in any other car I’ve tested recently is that the Outlander’s warning screen, which tells you to not let the center screen functions distract you from driving, won’t shut off until you acknowledge its prompts. Other vehicles eventually give up, but the Mitsubishi Outlander was resolute.
Also, I would have preferred a different indication from the Outlander that my phone was paired or that the warning screen was ready for my response. In both cases, there was an electronic chirp that was loud, unpleasant and reminded me of a digital watch I owned in the ’80s. As it’s something that occurs every time you start the car, a more welcoming tone would be better.
This is another area that shows that, while the Outlander was redesigned, it wasn’t updated. For starters, folding either the second or third rows requires removing the headrests and stowing them. This works, but some competitors don’t make you remove the headrests in the first place.
Also, the second row is an older design. Folding it requires raising and tilting the seat bottom forward, then folding down the backrest. The advantage to this is that you’re left with a level load floor. The disadvantage is that if you’re in the middle of inclement weather, you have to stand outside longer than you would with another vehicle, particularly one with spring-loaded seats that flip down via a lever, like the Edge.
Finally, the cargo area is long, but seemed narrower than in other SUVs I’ve tested.
The 2016 Mitsubishi Outlander has not been tested by our preferred safety organization, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. In National Highway Traffic Safety Administration tests, Outlander models with front-wheel drive received four stars (out of a possible five) for overall crash protection. All-wheel-drive models received five stars.
Our test model came equipped with optional lane departure warning, adaptive cruise control and a forward collision warning and mitigation system, which will brake the car to a stop from speeds lower than about 18.5 miles per hour, Mitsubishi says. Check out a complete list of safety features here.
When you start looking at prices, the Outlander becomes a somewhat more enticing proposition.
Comparing the least-expensive all-wheel-drive versions of the Outlander, Edge, Sorento and Highlander, the Outlander is the least expensive by a few thousand dollars, as you can see here. When you step up to the highest trim level, like the one we tested, the price advantage is much bigger.
It’s also worth noting that when we compare the field of three-row SUVs, looking at which is the most affordable but still offers features buyers want — such as an automatic transmission, power driver’s seat, backup camera and Bluetooth connectivity — the 2016 Outlander still wins.
Still, “lowest price” and “most affordable” don’t always imply value. Yes, the Outlander is the least expensive of the field, but none of its competitors that I’ve driven have a driver’s seat the rocks back when I accelerate. They also offer more amenities and have seats that are easier to fold. And while the Outlander offers better mileage, it also has the least rewarding driving experience.
All in all, the Outlander is a lukewarm entry that impresses only when price is a factor, not based on its features or execution.